Who Will Lift You in the Healing Waters?
Do you ever feel like you are just waiting for someone to lift you into God’s healing waters? What if once cleansed of your ailment, you could return again and again for further assurance of healing, a spiritual refresher?
In this reading from the Gospel according to John, we read about a man crippled for over 38 years. He has long been waiting to experience the healing power of God. This Gospel not only challenged me to consider the remarkable healing power of Christ but also His compassion and mercy.
The Gospel of John, Chapter 5 begins:
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?’”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
After reflecting on this conversation between the man and Jesus, it occurred to me that there are aspects of my life where I need to rely on others for a successful or desired outcome. These areas include my finances are often dependent on my employer or revenue from my ministry work. My health can be reliant on my doctor, though I am not going to lie, he sort of let me down on this whole Chronic Inflammation/Eczema thing!! Usually, though a diagnosis and the maintenance of good health is reliant on a doctor.
My spiritual well-being is strongly influenced by my pastor and spiritual director; ultimately the most important dependency on every single aspect of my life is on Jesus. It is not that my faith in Jesus negates the need for the others: each is an integral part in attaining that particular well-being I desire. With Jesus, as John’s Gospel illustrates, so much more is possible, including the miraculous:
Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.
Immediately the man became well,
and picked up his pallet and began to walk
There is Always More with Jesus
At first, today’s Gospel appears to be all about the physical. However, as so often happens when we encounter Christ, there is always more. We see Jesus’ desire for a deeper connection with us.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
We see this same occurrence with the man lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus. We see again and again how in healing physical maladies, Jesus demonstrates the authority given to him by God. It is this same power that allows him to forgive sins.
A Personal Analogy
For over two years, I have been battling Eczema on my hands and feet. Eczema is an incurable and chronic ailment. I feel so defeated with those words – incurable and chronic. There are days when the itch or pain is almost more than I can bear. In those moments, I am reminded of the long-suffering of the people seeking Jesus’ healing in the Gospels. Jesus uses their suffering and healing to teach those healed as well as those witnessing the healing in many different ways. In my suffering, I am united with Christ. I believe with my whole heart God never wastes a pain and I constantly look for the lessons in this affliction.
I prayed for an insight into my current condition. It was no coincidence that I would have today’s readings to ponder.
Comparing Reconciliation and Chronic Illness
There are remarkable similarities between eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. Both need healing. For my hands there are remedies such as medicines and creams; for my soul, there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I saw other connections:
- The root cause can not always be determined and can lay dormant within somebody for years.
- To eradicate it one often needs to investigate deep into oneself to discover the root of the issue.
- It is often painful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and can create anxiety.
- In order to be properly healed you need to see a physician.
- The longer you put it off that visit, the more unnecessary suffering you will endure.
I often feel embarrassed and ashamed of my hands and want to hide them, much like being caught in the shame or guilt of sin and wanting to hide from God. Covering up (either my illness or my sins) does no good in bringing about healing. My external healing means exposing the skin to the healing properties of the sun, transforms them from broken and useless to whole again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the healing grace of the Son, radically transforms my soul, healing my spiritual brokenness, making me whole again.
Broken Skin, Broken Relationships
The hardest part of losing full use of my hands was not being able to communicate with my daughter. She is profoundly deaf and our family uses American Sign Language to communicate. At the height of my eczema flares, it felt just like trying to talk with laryngitis. I was acutely aware that I don’t speak to my daughter as often as I should or as thoroughly due to this. Reminiscent of how my communication with Jesus starts to fade and not be as often as I know it should when I allow my sin to go unchecked.
With regards to my hands, I have continued to see remedies for this ailment. I am presently working with a health coach, weeding through all the different possible causes of Chronic Inflammation. She is helping me navigate inflammatory foods, detox protocols, and to find peace as I work toward wellness. I have already seen a marked improvement, and am very mindful of many of the possible triggers.
To be fully healed like the man waiting to be lifted into the healing waters, I must be willing to accept the love and mercy of Christ. When I avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my communication with him is strained, like trying to sign with crippled hands or speak with no voice. This great authority given to the Son of God is the same bestowed upon our priests through Jesus. We don’t have to wait to receive this healing. While our desire may be physical health, Christ desires so much more for us.
Christ is asking you right now, “Do you want to be well?”